I was taken by the thoughts on kindness by my friend, Jayce, so much so I reblogged her post. That would be Kindness, Part 1. One of her commenters, SarahPotterWrites, wrote that helping someone requires discernment – and she also wrote well of the homeless at a glance:
A large percentage of homeless people are there because they have psychiatric issues that require professional help. I’ve also come across beggars who have the equivalent of a business manager sitting in a posh car around a corner to pick them up after they’ve worked a street.
I do hear what you’re saying. Helping a beggar requires discernment, bravery, and common sense. If they’re high on something, stinking of booze, or ranting at imaginary voices, then there’s very little you can do. And inviting random strangers into your house is dodgy at the very least.
It’s an ethical nightmare. I think one must never give up on kindness, but sometimes it’s kinder to walk away from a person than get involved and then find yourself out of our depths, yet we all have done it — me included.
Regarding the homeless, for me, many times what rides me and whispers in my head, is how easily that could be me, and so, even if it is just a wee bit of change in my pocket, out it comes and plink into the cup it goes in hopes that when and if my day comes, somebody will do it for me. A bit of self-service in that gesture, “Hey, God, remember this when it is my turn, please…” and many a friend has chided me for doing so, for all the reasons cited above. I have a couple of distinct memories, both of which bring a smile to my mouth and laughter to my eyes:
Walking through the Venice Boardwalk in Southern California, made famous in all the TV and movies – this is where you see a boardwalk, filled with vendors for tourists, people skating, performing, couples strolling, the flotsam and jetsam cheek and jowl with stars and regular folk, minding their own business, just out to enjoy the sunshine and the sense of festival. I was there with my ex or soon-to-be-ex-husband. Perhaps it was one of our rare days of missing one another and acting upon it.
Rick was rather famous for his drinking, especially right before he died, and so, there we are strolling and we pass a beggar or a homeless person, sound asleep with a blanket over him and his cup just there beside him. I put the change I had in his cup, nothing much, just what was in my pocket when I reached in. I was touched by the idea he had enough faith to simply sleep, leaving his cup unguarded.
Rick, who was always generous, surprisingly chided me for wasting my money. In retrospect, I think this might have just been a side effect of our breaking up over details. However, what I remember, was glancing at Rick sideways, smiling and saying softly, “Oh, hon, he reminded me of you.” … there may still be a sound of sputtering echoing somewhere in the universe… still makes me grin.
The other scene, I may have recounted in a post somewhere here because it is one of my standout memories. One of those that challenge your perceptions and inner biases. I was coming of the Bank of America on 4th and Arizona in Santa Monica, California (the town next door to Venice). I saw a homeless man approaching me. There’s some inner radar signal I send out to people in saffron robes, veterans, and the homeless that helps them key in on me. As he got closer, I was thinking, “Oh shoot. Please don’t ask me for cash.” Sure enough, he met my eyes, stopped and asked, “Would you have an extra cigarette?” I was so relieved, I laughed and beamed at him. “Oh, I’m so glad. Sure! I thought you were going to ask me for some change. I don’t have any.” Without an instant hesitation, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the spare change he had, “Oh, you need some? Here, help yourself.”
I give what and when I can and I let God sort out the rest. “Here, help yourself.” What a priceless lesson that was!